When a second blobby heartbeat popped up on my prenatal ultrasound screen last year, my very first thought was, "oh no, two more college tuitions". Sadly, we ended up only coming home with one baby - a baby whose college savings, pennies as it may be, was started before her first birthday. Why? Because college is worth it.
A father of eight/pusher for his own parenting book "Guerrilla Dad" made the claim on Today Parenting that the reason he's not sending his kids to college is out of principle - that they should pay their own way and not get anything handed to them. Right. I'm sure the reason he's not sending his staggering brood to college is his "principles". Why not just be real about it and say you can't afford to pay college tuition for a basketball team? I know I couldn't.
Guerrilla Dad makes some other good points about child-rearing in general, but his smug denial that kids deserve an education is a cop-out. He doesn't even help them with their homework. Probably because there are eight of them. Don't you love it when people spin their circumstances into virtues?
Let's get on the real problem: We need college education reform so parents don't have to spin ridiculous yarns like this to hide the fact that they can't pay insane tuition rates.
College expenses are becoming astronomical. Parents are fortunate to be able to pay tuition for even one child, let alone eight, and who does the child's degree benefit in the end? In order: the child, companies, the grandchildren, society and last on the list is possible bragging rights for the parent. If anything, a college-educated child with more opportunities is more likely to move away and not be nearby to help with aging parents. Note higher up on that list was society and companies. The country benefits from a more educated population, so the population should fund it. Better yet, let's hit up all those "job creators" for a loan subsidy based on how many engineers they employ. Big companies barely pay taxes at all and yet they benefit from the sacrifices of their employees' parents. Absurd!
As a whole, we agree our citizens are entitled to 13 years of free education, but why stop there? The world has changed since the parameters of public school ended at 12th grade. Maybe parents, the state (via taxing corporations) and post-secondary institutions could meet in the middle for lower rates, subsidized tuition and free student loans. Look at Germany - there are no university tuition fees.
Until then, parents have to pay because making kids pay for their own lack of opportunities in the long run is cruel. To have eight kids with no intention of educating them is irresponsible.
The fact is college is expensive, but it's one of the best things you can do for your kids. Help them start a life with a good education, without swimming in debt if you can. And of you can't? Don't have eight of them. Mr. Guerrilla Dad insists he's hands off - no helping, no intervening, no funding, no planning. Sink or swim, kid! Bye!
My parents cut me off at age 17. Yes, I earned a generous partial scholarship (plus a Pell grant and Stafford loans) while working full-time hours, but the drawback was I took easy classes. I picked a breezy major that I knew I excel in while dedicating most of my energy to working to pay my rent and bills. I graduated in four years with over $30,000 in student loans, which meant I had to take higher paying cash jobs (read: cocktail waitressing) over career-boosting internships or entry-level work at companies in my field. Internships and entry-level work at coveted places are usually only options when parents subsidize their adult children's lives or at the very least, the graduate isn't drowning in student loans.
I cocktailed for eight months before getting a decent-paying job at a small company in Chicago and then I left after three years to sell cars - a financially savvy move at the time, but what if I had had the "luxury" of studying for a tougher, in-demand degree, like, say, nursing? And who would benefit from that degree right now?
I understand parents not wanting to fund four-year party binges that only serve to delay adulthood. We're not entitled to half a decade of Taco Bell 4th Meal and gazing at afternoon campus grass as it grows. And no, college isn't for everyone and trades have value, but a college education shouldn't be a luxury you deny your kids based on "principles". By age 30, college graduates are earning an average of $17,000 more per year than their high-school-educated peers and over a million dollars over a lifetime.
In the absence of a better federal education plan, parents need to plan ahead and help when they can. That's not to shame people who can't, but having eight kids and willfully ignoring their education needs is asinine. Refusing to even help with their homework is at best ignorant. At worst, its selfish, lazy, arrogant, short-signted and cruel.
What we do as parents is give our kids the best life we can give them. That might mean having fewer children with better opportunities.
The fascinating documentary about a billionaire family with eight children called Queen of Versailles hit the nail on the head about kids and economics. After the banking meltdown of 2008, this family found themselves in financial ruin. Having never saved for their children's future, the mother very frankly said she shouldn't have had eight. "But with nannies [and money] why not? They were such bundles of joy".
Parenting is joyous. Babies are adorable and snuggly and making them is SO FUN. But we have to care for these children, which includes educating them long after the baby smell wears off.
Maybe one day college will be free for everyone or at the very least, loans will cheap and tuition reasonable. Until then, don't have eight kids if you can't be arsed to help them with their homework.
Sorry kid, Daddy will not help you roll those quarters.
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